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– Begin Transcript –
Welcome to the Kingdom Hero Blogcast. I’m your host, Stace Massengill. On this episode, I’d like to build on some of what we’ve been discussing in the last couple of shows – that is, keeping things in the right perspective and trying to see others the way God sees them, and hopefully, showing more love and grace to those around us – particularly, the ones we tend to be at odds with. We want to recognize that our true enemy will use any and every tool at his disposal to try and cause division, especially within the church. If he can cause a falling out between brothers and sisters in Christ, it gives him an opportunity to destroy and demolish our efforts to grow the Kingdom. So how do we stop this? How do we recognize what’s really at work when we’re in the heat of debate or argument with our fellow believer? And how might we apply this to the divide between us and those who may not believe, but instead staunchly oppose us? How can we hope to overcome the things that tend to separate us? That’s the topic of today’s show… Let’s get to it.
– Show Intro –
Having been in the church practically my entire life, I have seen time and time again when petty disputes have caused giant rifts within the body of believers. It’s always a tragic thing when it happens. It doesn’t have to stem from some huge philosophical difference of opinion; it can be about something as minor as what color carpet is used in the auditorium. Seriously. The smallest of things can trigger a ridiculously large argument that the devil uses to tear the church apart. He absolutely loves doing that.
Let me give you a common scenario… Let’s say the worship team is practicing for the Sunday morning service, and a couple of the team members have differing ideas of how a song should be done. Or, they disagree about who should sing lead. Or maybe, they just have personalities that sometimes rub each other the wrong way. This is even more common when there are several family members serving together on the team because our filters are more likely to be off when talking to family. I’ve seen it a lot, even between my own brother and myself. Whatever the dispute in this scenario, if it is allowed to go unchecked and uncorrected, it can not only adversely affect the spiritual atmosphere of the practice session, but it can even cause one or more team members to storm out and never return. This would have devastating effects on the rest of the worship team, and those waves can ripple into the rest of the church and cause more damage.
Now in this particular scenario, one of the first things that needs to happen is that, the entire praise team should be made to remember why they are there. It’s not about opinions, and it’s not about any individual on the team. It’s about Jesus. The worship team exists for a specific purpose – to bring the congregation into an attitude of worship to God, and to lead them in praises to Him. It is a privilege and a solemn duty to serve in such a capacity, and so it should be treated that way. Everything else is just noise. Anything that causes discord is to be avoided or squashed when it happens. And this translates to any other situation where division arises in the church.
Sunday school teachers may argue over the curriculum, church board members may disagree about leadership decisions, or someone who attends regularly might get upset that someone else is sitting in their seat. It’s really sad the things that we will sometimes let get in the way of just coming to church and worshiping our Savior as we ought.
So what can we do to avoid that? Or what can we do to fix it when it happens? Yeah, we have to recognize it as an attack from hell – but how can we make sure our perspective is such that we CAN see it for what it really is? What are the symptoms to look out for when a potential source of division is approaching? And what are the core causes?
One benefit of having been in church for the better part of 50 years now is that I’ve learned to recognize certain situations that arise as possible triggers of division. That being said, I can still be blinded in a given moment by my own circumstances. Remember the instance I recently shared with you about getting corrected by my pastor when I spoke some words in response to a musician at church? This man made a comment that set me off a little bit, and I replied with a smart-elic tone, “I know dude, I’ve been doing this for over 30 years.” In that moment, I succumbed to my own pride and spoke in a way that could have angered or hurt my brother in Christ. Thankfully, my pastor was there to help me see my error. But how many times have we allowed pride or personal circumstances to cloud our vision and then used words or a tone that we shouldn’t have used?
So here, we have recognized a couple of core causes of divisive disputes: pride and short-sightedness. These are common, and they’re inter-related. How can we avoid these things? Number one – persistent prayer. Especially if you see that these are things that you struggle with more often that you’d like to admit. Daily one-on-one time with God is essential to every believer, and we need to be asking Him to help us with our communication skills and how we relate with others.
And if you’re really having a hard time with pride and failing to see how your words affect those around you, go deeper. Don’t just pray. Fervently pray. And fast. Spend time seeking God’s assistance in this matter. Wait for Him to speak to your heart. He might compel you to pray for that person you keep butting heads with. Perhaps you need to alter your perspective. Let God lead you. And don’t let up your prayers until you have an answer. Demonstrate to God (for your own benefit) how important this is to you, and ask Him to help you show grace in those times when that person pushes all your buttons.
1 John 4:20-21
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
You may say, “I don’t HATE him. I just don’t get along with him.” Realize there’s no middle ground here. If you don’t hate your brother in Christ, then you love him, right? You know we’re called to love one another. You know that the Bible tells us that’s how people will know that we are Christians – when they see our love for one another. But when that person gets on your last nerve, do you respond by showing the love you have? Or do you bitterly and pridefully respond in a way that seems more indicative of hate?
Think about this… Love is like a healing balm that mends what’s broken and binds up what’s wounded. Hatred, on the other hand, breaks and rips apart that which should be undivided. The one you practice is the one that you will cultivate and perfect. Which one are you practicing? Love? Or hate?
– Break Transcript –
So far, we have brought to light some things within our own attitudes that can cause division: pride and short-sightedness. But there are other things that can be sources of division. Today we see things like class-warfare, politics, and race causing large chasms between people. How do we bridge those divides?
The same concept we just talked about should be the answer to that – LOVE. But it seems to be even tougher sometimes to love someone who appears to be so diametrically opposed to us. When we know there’s something we should be doing, but we are struggling to do it, what is the appropriate tactic? We mentioned this earlier. If you’re having a really hard time doing the right thing, go deeper. Get more determined about it. Pray harder. Fast. Fervently seek God’s help, and don’t let up until you get what you need. Show the Lord you truly want to do His will, and ask Him to help you do that.
Now you may say, “I’m doing all I know how to show grace and love to this person, but he is just so stubborn.” Understand that it’s not up to you to change that person’s heart. You may not even be able to convince him that you love him and don’t view him as your enemy. Your responsibility as a Christian is simply to love, show grace, and let the Holy Spirit do the work that you can’t. We are seed sowers, but it is the Spirit if God who waters those seeds and causes them to grow. We can’t allow ourselves to be discouraged when we don’t see the change we hope for. Leave that in God’s hands. Just love.
Keep in mind Jesus’ parable of the sower…
“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”
When we sow – when we truly show the love and grace of God to everyone, regardless of how they treat us – we must realize the end result of our sowing isn’t up to us. As I’ve said, it is the Holy Spirit that does the work after we have done what we are supposed to do. But it is also largely up to the fertility of the soil in which the seed lands. If that person we treat as we ought doesn’t possess the receptiveness or the depth of good soil, his or her heart may remain hard and unchanged. That seed may not ever grow there at all. But in our charge to love others, there is no exception.
And, besides – love is unlike any ordinary seed. To love is divine. Love is the kind of seed that has success where others do not. Whether or not we ever see the end result, love is more likely to cause lasting change in people’s hearts than anything else. Even when it falls on ground that is hard and dry, love has the innate ability to break through the toughest of surfaces. And when the Holy Spirit waters that seed, miraculous change can happen. Why else would Jesus tell His disciples that love is the greatest commandment? There is power in it that can conquer anything – including the hardened heart of someone who seems to disagree with you on everything.
(Jesus said in the sermon on the mount) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you (only) love those who love you, what reward do you have?”
Here again, we see that we are not only to love those it’s easy to love, but we are also to love those that it seems much harder to love. There is greater reward in it. And moreover, this passage says to pray for those who persecute you. That’s not easy either, but that’s what Jesus tells us to do. God doesn’t withhold the sunshine or rain from the unrighteous, and so we shouldn’t withhold love and grace from anyone – no matter who they are.
Whatever things tend to divide us, we can bridge the divide with love – real love – the Agape love that God has for us in spite of our flaws is precisely the kind of love we should have for everyone else. Nothing else we possess matters as much as that. We can be rich or poor, republican or democrat, black or white, or anything in between. Love is our most important attribute.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
This passage from the Love Chapter very clearly states that, without love, all the other talents and abilities and riches and accomplishments just fall flat and amount to nothing. You may have enough wealth to be financially set for life, but if you don’t have real love in your heart, you will never be truly happy. You might possess the greatest singing voice of anyone who ever lived, but if a Godly love for people isn’t a part of your character, your voice may as well be like the sound of braying donkeys. I could be the CEO of a large company that does business around the world, or the president and leader of a mighty nation, but that will count for absolutely nothing when I face eternity – all that will matter then is whether or not I followed Christ’s example in showing love, both for God the Father and for my fellow man. And without love, I will never bridge any divide.
The things that separate us are many, but only ONE thing can foster unity – and that’s LOVE.
– Break Transcript –
This concept that we’ve been discussing today – that love is the thing that can bridge the gaps and overcome the things that separate us – this is a central theme in the Word of God. In fact, you can’t talk about the things of God without talking about love. You cannot say you have a relationship with God unless you possess love. The two are inseparable.
1 John 4:8
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
The old testament book of Deuteronomy speaks of the need to circumcise your heart when talking about loving God. As you likely know, circumcision can be quite painful. And the necessity for having a circumcised heart means there has to be a cutting away of things like pride and a self-serving carnal nature that impedes our ability to love like we’re supposed to. Anything that gets in the way or prevents us from having love in our hearts is also precluding us from truly having God in our hearts. Again, God is love.
So, how do we know that love can really build a bridge? Where’s the evidence of that? When in scripture do we see that being the case? As I just said a moment ago, this concept is a central theme in the Bible. In fact, it’s at the very heart of the gospel message. That message is a message of the great love of God.
1 John 4:10
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
This word, propitiation, indicates that there was a price that had to be paid to redeem us from sin. The cost of sin is death, and Jesus paid that price for us when He took up the cross and suffered the humiliation of crucifixion. This act put us back into favor and good standing with God the Father, and that was the ultimate act of love. That love bridged the divide that sin had caused between us and God.
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This is a sacrificial love. It’s an ever-lasting love. It’s a selfless love. What Christ did on the cross is the greatest example of love we could ever have.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Think about this. How willing do you think you would be to give up your life for someone who is an atheist, a rank sinner, someone who’s guilty of crimes worthy of death? By all rights, that person deserves to die. But suppose you were given the opportunity to sacrifice yourself in that sinner’s place. Now perhaps I could imagine myself in this hypothetical situation and think, “I’m right with God, so if I die, I’ll be with the Lord. And this man who doesn’t know Jesus would have a chance to get saved.” Sure, I could think that. But in matter of fact, nah, probably not. I dare say, to my own shame, that I would likely not feel terribly inclined to step in and say, “Hey, let me die in his place.” But that is exactly what Jesus did for us.
The bar is set pretty high, my friends. The love that we are commanded to have is an awfully big thing. It’s a tough row to hoe for anyone who’s more focused on self than on others. It’s a difficult concept to grasp for those who care more about winning an argument than winning a soul. It’s hard to love someone if you’re judging rather than witnessing. But that Godly, self-sacrificing kind of love is exactly what is needed to overcome the things that separate us and bridge those divides that seem otherwise insurmountable.
Love really is the answer, folks. It doesn’t matter if the chasm is caused by differing opinions within the church body, or if it’s caused by differing political views. The division might be due to opposing social stances, or even something as ridiculously petty as skin color. Whatever it is, love is the key to mending every rift – no matter how huge it may seem. The world has its own way of doing things, but we are to hold ourselves to a higher standard. As Christians, we should be bridge-builders. And love is the way to get it done.
If you are struggling with hurt feelings between you and a fellow believer, or if you are having difficulty finding it within yourself to show grace and love to that person who pushes all your buttons, talk to God. Pray hard. Commit to a fast with the intent to seek God and His will. Demonstrate your willingness to change yourself and to be molded by the Lord – not to prove something to Him, but for the sake of disciplining yourself. Fervently pray, read God’s Word, and seek for answers. Ask Him to fill you with love for your fellow man, even for those who oppose you. And determine yourself to not let up until you get what you need.
I feel led today to close this episode with prayer. So, please, pray with me now…
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your great love. Thank You for sending Jesus to die in my place. Thank You for demonstrating this concept of love as an example to me. Now Lord, I ask that You would continue to mold me and make me into the man of God that I should be. I ask for Your help in living a life that is pleasing to You. Lord, let me show the same abundance of love and grace to others that You have so mercifully shown to me. And when I encounter a divide, give me the strength and courage and the depth of love to build a bridge, God. Help me to be a peace-maker, a seed-sower, a bridge-builder, and a soul-winner. And please help me in those times when I feel the pull to pridefully argue with my brothers in Christ to remember my place – that it’s not about me but about You, and that love is the more excellent way. Let me see others the way You see them, and with the measure of love that You have for them. Thank You, Lord, for hearing my prayer. And may my spirit always be ready to give You praise, for You are so worthy, God. You are my King and my source and my provider, and I give You glory. In Your Holy name… Amen.
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